STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Auburn's second-half rally fell short Thursday night as the Tigers fell at No. 7/6 Mississippi State, 60-45, at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Tigers (11-4, 1-1 SEC) trailed by 16 at halftime, but cut that deficit to as few as five points in the second half before Mississippi State (15-1, 2-0) used Auburn turnovers and success at the free-throw line to pull away late.
"You're not going to beat anyone turning the ball over 25 times," Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "I could fault them for too many turnovers, especially when we were trying to push in transition, but definitely not the effort. The effort was there. A lot of our turnovers came in our halfcourt offense. We've just got to do a better job taking care of the ball."
Auburn out-shot MSU for the game, shooting 40 percent to MSU's 33, but the Bulldogs connected on five 3-pointers and made 15 free throws while Auburn attempted just five. The Tigers dealt with foul trouble much of the night, with two players fouling out.
Auburn cut a 16-point deficit in half in the third quarter, outscoring MSU 19-11 to trail by just eight at 44-36 headed to the fourth. The Tigers, who had been outrebounded 20-10 in the first half, pulled down 13 boards in the third quarter and held State in single-digits until the closing seconds of the half.
The Bulldogs led 33-17 at halftime. After the teams fought to a 12-12 tie over the first nine minutes, the Tigers went cold over the first seven-plus minutes of the second quarter, allowing MSU to push ahead by double-digits. An Erica Sanders free throw ended the drought at the 2:54 mark, and a pair of Tanner layups provided the rest of Auburn's offense in the second period.
Victoria Vivians had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs.
Auburn continues a two-game swing in SEC play Sunday afternoon as they travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to face 12th-ranked Tennessee. Game time is set for 1 p.m. CT with the national broadcast on ESPNU.